I believe it was John Maxwell I first heard say that if your dream is too small for a team your dream is too small. Many small businesses began as a one-person show, but eventually the owner of a one-person business will learn that he or she is still an employee…and the boss. Soon after that recognition comes another awakening – unless you can expand the business to include more people it will never be what you first envisioned it would be. It will never provide you and your family with the life you wanted when you became a business owner. It is the failure to develop a team that causes many small business owners to eventually give up and return to the workforce. It makes no sense to deal with all the headaches that go with owning your own business if you are the only employee and are not making any more money, or often even less, than you were when you were working for someone else.
But, just adding people isn’t enough. You have to be adding the right people. Dave Anderson, in his excellent book Up Your Business!: 7 Steps to Fix, Build, or Stretch Your Organization, writes, “You can read books on strategy and attend courses on corporate vision but the fact is that without getting the right people on your team, nothing else you do will matter. Your vision is worthless, strategy impotent, and values corrupt without the right people to execute them.” Later in the book he adds, “A great dream with the wrong team is a nightmare because bold goals pursued by mediocre people still result in mediocre results.” He spends the remainder of his book addressing good hiring procedures, the importance of ongoing training, setting high expectations for the team, and how to survive success by overcoming common temptations that successful companies face.
Adding team members is expensive. If the owner does it right it takes an enormous amount of time. The best people do not work for entry level salaries and benefits. There is the cost of training new people in your culture and in whatever business you may be in. It is very expensive to hire new people, but the cost escalates much higher when you hire the wrong people. You have all the expenses the good people have plus you have the additional costs of lost business, a damaged reputation, and your own elevated stress levels while you try to contain the damage they cause. Unless you begin to feel that you are taking too long to hire a new team member you probably have not taken enough time to do it right.
If you want your business to continue to grow you must be constantly developing team leaders. You cannot wait until you need a new leader to begin searching for one. The best companies always have people in the leadership pipeline at various stages of leadership development so when the need arises they can go to that pipeline and immediately bring someone in that is prepared to provide the leadership needed. Without that pipeline a small business owner will often find that he or she is being held hostage by incompetent, mediocre people that the owner doesn’t want to keep but can’t afford to lose either.
One of the mistakes I made as a small business owner was not hiring quality people when I had the opportunity. It seemed like those people always presented themselves during our slow times, and by the time we needed them they had already found positions with other companies. If I had it to do over again I would hire them and create a position if I needed to so that I could keep them. I really believe they would have easily paid for themselves and would have put us in a much stronger position for long-term growth.
If you want to read a very helpful book on the importance of having a quality team working for you I encourage you to read Anderson’s book. It is one of the best on the topic I’ve read.